24 March 2023

Dettori turns to Country Grammer for fairytale farewell to Dubai

24 March 2023

As he prepares for his final Dubai World Cup ride on the 2022 winner Country Grammer, the magnitude of the occasion this weekend will not be lost on Frankie Dettori.

With so many special Dubai moments adorning his glittering record, the Italian will be seeking a fifth triumph in the $12million spectacular aboard a horse he says “is all heart and will run to the end”.

Dettori’s first World Cup victory came aboard Dubai Millennium in the 2000 renewal, adding further successes with Moon Ballad (2003) and Electrocutionist (2006) at the race’s original venue of Nad Al Sheba before it moved to Meydan in 2010.

Having enjoyed a long association with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, Dettori has seen the race’s growth in stature first hand and ranks his inaugural winner as the best he has partnered.

He said: “I worked for Godolphin for 18 years and spent many months with my wife and with my kids here as they were growing up.

“I’ve seen it develop from Cigar at the first World Cup at Nad Al Sheba to this impressive course with its fantastic grandstand that Sheikh Mohammed created.

“Dubai Millennium is the best horse I’ve ridden. Now I’m not riding for Godolphin, but there are so many great memories.”

Dettori teams up with the Bob Baffert-trained Country Grammer for a second successive year, having come in for the winning ride when Flavien Prat opted to partner eventual runner-up Hot Rod Charlie 12 months ago.

Despite suffering from jet lag, Dettori rode the horse in work at 4am in midweek and is full of hope of a title defence despite a high draw in stall 14, with only habitual front-runner Panthalassa on his outside.

Country Grammer was beaten three-quarters of a length by that Japanese-trained contender on his latest start in the Saudi Cup, but the extra furlong here is a factor in his favour.

Country Grammer is all heart and I know he will run to the end. I can’t say a bad word about this horse because he’s all guts

Dettori said: “Last year we thought Life Is Good was unbeatable, but at the four (hundred metre) pole he collapsed.

“This time it won’t be easy from the 14 draw and it is a competitive race, but one thing for sure is that Country Grammer is all heart and I know he will run to the end. I can’t say a bad word about this horse because he’s all guts.”

Country Grammer has shown a tendency to hit a flat spot and get outpaced midway through his races, and Dettori added: “In the San Antonio he got outpaced, but he doesn’t know how to give up.

“Right now, I’m just thinking about getting the job done on him.”

Dettori also rides for Baffert aboard Worcester in the UAE Derby and Hopkins in the Golden Shaheen, while Caspar Fownes’ Senor Toba is his mount in the 12-furlong Sheema Classic and Raaed, trained in Saudi Arabia, is his Al Quoz Sprint hope.

His old ally John Gosden – now training in partnership with son Thady – has two challengers, with Lord North bidding for a third Dubai Turf verdict and Ebor winner Trawlerman, who benefitted from an excellent Dettori ride in winning at York last year, going for glory in the Dubai Gold Cup after finishing down the field in Riyadh last month.

The rider said: “I expect Trawlerman to improve from his last run, then there are Bob Baffert’s three on the dirt which is their bread and butter.

“I rode Lord North on the training track on Thursday morning and he’s in good form ahead of the Turf. I’ve also picked up a ride for Caspar Fownes in the Sheema Classic.”

Dettori has been plying his trade in America over the winter as the beginning of his farewell tour and expects to return there next week to ride in trials for the Kentucky Derby – although only a “superstar” is likely to prevent him from riding at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting in May.

He explained: “My agent in the States, Ron Anderson, does everything for me, but unless I find a superstar there, I expect I’ll be back in Newmarket to ride Chaldean in the Guineas.

“Then it will be my last Royal Ascot and that will be very emotional, followed by more touring and a return to Newmarket and Ascot in the fall and another Arc.

“After Champions Day, I shall make my way to California and prepare for the Breeders’ Cup. The plan is then to go to Australia or Japan, but I’m keeping all options open and Santa Anita could be (the place for) my last ride.”

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